Napoli press conference points to Rafael Benítez for Real Madrid

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Napoli have called an unexpected press conference for Thursday as reports linking Rafael Benítez with Real Madrid continue to gain strength.

The Serie A club close out their season with a home game against Lazio on Sunday but the Spaniard looks set to announce his departure for the Bernabéu three days earlier.

Earlier on Tuesday the former Liverpool manager was described as being “99%” certain to be the next Real coach.

After weeks of speculation about his future, Carlo Ancelotti was sacked by Real on Monday. The club president, Florentino Pérez, announced the time had come for a “change of direction”.

Ancelotti’s representative Ernesto Bronzetti expects the 55-year-old Benítez, who started his managerial career with Real’s reserve side, to become the club’s 13th coach since 2003. Bronzetti said: “Benítez is 99% sure to go to Real.”

Ancelotti’s departure had been anticipated since Real were knocked out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage by Juventus.

The former Chelsea and Paris St-Germain manager won the Champions League and Copa del Rey in his first season in charge at the Bernabéu and also helped Real lift the Super Cup and Club World Cup in 2014.

Real could not add any more trophies this season as they finished second to Barcelona in La Liga as well as being knocked out of Europe and the Copa del Rey.

Before his dismissal Ancelotti said he was going to have a back operation and would take a year-long sabbatical if Real decided to part company with him.

Bronzetti reiterated that on Monday, saying: “As of right now, Ancelotti wants to take a year’s break. That’s his intention. At Real Madrid you can be sacked if you don’t win any trophies in a season.”

Aside from Benítez, Jürgen Klopp, Michel and Unai Emery have been linked with the Real post.

The Madrid-born manager has spoken of his wish to manage Real, calling the club his “sweetheart” while he was in interim charge of Chelsea in 2013.

Perez said on Monday night while announcing Ancelotti’s departure: “Next week we will know the name of the new manager of Real Madrid. With our great team, talent and hard work, we will be able to give satisfaction and happiness to our fans and our members.

“I want to publicly say thank you to Carlo Ancelotti for these two years, for his hard work and all his affection and tell him this is still his house and his home.

“It was a very difficult decision to make; the demands at this club are the utmost because Madrid always wants to win silverware. The affection that the players and the fans have for Carlo is the same as the affection I myself have for him.

“What did Ancelotti do wrong? I don’t know. The demands here at Real Madrid are very high.”

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